“Heartless” by Veronica Wilde from Myth and Magic: Queer Fairy Tales from Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman.
I didn’t mention this the other day while reviewing “The Ice King” by Tom Cardamone in The Lavender Menace, but I really don’t like Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen because Kai has no free will and it’s really just one long chase scene.
Cardamone’s story bore very little resemblance to the original tale. In fact, aside from the obvious nod to it in the title and the fact that it concerned a being made from ice who was busily turning young men’s hearts cold, it really had nothing to do with it. This, however, does.
Despite that, there were things I liked about it. Kai and Gerda, who in the book are male and female, respectively, and mere children, have been transformed into two women, and their platonic relationship has been replaced by a romantic one. That choice works. I’m still not crazy about the fact that Kai has no free will. Just as in the original, the Snow Queen blows ice shards into Kai’s eyes and she becomes compelled to do her bidding. In this updated version the sexual tension between the two characters is openly acknowledged, and far less creepy. The Queen runs a bondage club, and Kai is her new pet.
Another problem I had with the original remains. “But she adores Kai so much,” the exposition tells us. I’m not convinced. Yes, Kai is easy on the eyes, but so were the Queen’s previous pets. She says that she wants someone whose heart won’t turn to ice, but Kai’s certainly seems to be freezing. She’s been a zombie from the start. Where’s the appeal? Don’t get me wrong, this piece is told well and it’s very faithful to the original. That last, in my opinion, is unfortunate. Other stories in this collection broke free of their source material and never looked back. I wish this one had done the same, but you might have an entirely different reaction.